Ethics Quiz: Rank The Unethical Politicians!

Three pols

For your first Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the New Year:

Consider these unethical politicians from Florida, Texas and California…

Unethical Politician A:

California State Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles)

Ethics Failures:

Competence, Responsibility, Diligence

Explaining his proposed legislation SB808, dealing with “ghost guns” (that is, home-made weapons) at the California Capitol in Sacramento last week, de Leon held up such a firearm and said, “This right here has the ability with a .30-caliber clip to disperse with 30 bullets within half a second. Thirty magazine clip in half a second.”

This is genuine anti-gun gibberish that could not possibly be uttered with a straight face by anyone even slightly familiar with guns. There is no such thing as a “30-caliber clip;” he is referring to a 30-round magazine. (There is also no such thing as a “30 magazine clip.) “Caliber” refers the measurement of the width of a bullet or the internal diameter of a gun barrel, not what the magazine will hold. And the average rate of fire for a semi-automatic rifle, which is what he was holding, is about 120 rounds per minute, not 3,600 rounds per minute.

Why are legislators who don’t care enough about guns to educate themselves about what they are, how they work and what they are capable of doing, submitting legislation about guns? Because they just know guns are dangerous, and in their infantile, knee-jerk reasoning, that’s all they have to know. The rest is fakery: the legislator is pretending that he has sufficient expertise to be credible on the issue, when he is too lazy and arrogant to do the minimum study necessary to render him qualified to vote on gun regulations, much less author them.  This is the equivalent of a legislator who thinks babies are delivered by storks proposing abortion laws.

De Leon is obligated to be a competent legislator, but his presentation amounted to a grunted, “Guns…BAD! and nothing more. And the amazing thing is, in California, that’s probably enough. If it isn’t enough, however, his ineptitude will be one reason why: gun advocates are having a field day making him out to be a fool, which, in fact, he is. Actually, his legislation, requiring background checks for those who manufacture their own guns, isn’t unreasonable.

Unethical Politician B:

Joshua Black, (R), Candidate to represent District 68 in the Florida Legislature

Ethics Failures:

Civility, Responsibility, Respect, Honesty

On Martin Luther King’s birthday, Black, an African-American, used Twitter to endorse the proposition that President Obama should be hanged for treason, and he wasn’t speaking hyperbolically.  When fellow Republican Chris Latvala incredulously asked in a return tweet if Black was serious, Black replied by tweeting, “Execution is the appropriate punishment for traitors. #BenedictArnold #ReadAmericanHistory #criminalpoliticians.” Black is apparently aspiring to emulate fellow outspoken history ignoramus Michele Bachmann, who has made a habit of such howlers. Benedict Arnold was not executed for treason, but died of natural causes in England, long after the war.

Then Black went to Facebook to give a more detailed justification for seeking President Obama’s life, writing,

“To everyone who was offended that I said that the POTUS should be hanged for treason, this is the man who droned Al-Awaki on “suspicion of terrorism”–not proof–and later killed his 15-year-old son for nothing more than being his son. This is also the man who sought to have Bradley Manning and Eric Snowden executed for treason when they didn’t kill anyone, nor does the US government pretend to believe that they cost any spies their lives. This would be exactly what the President has done to others, and, as Jesus said, “the measure ye mete, it shall be meted to you again.” I make no apologies for saying that the President is not above the People. If ordinary Americans should be executed for treason, so should he. So, don’t stop at impeachment. Remove him. Try him before a jury (the very right that he arbitrarily denied to al-Awaki and his 15-year-old son), and, upon his sure convictions, execute him. Thus has he done, thus it should be done to him.”

This is a misleading, factually wrong, illogical mess.

1. Even if the drone killing of terrorist Al-Awaki was unconstitutional, it was certainly not “treason” by any definition.

2. The terrorist’s son was not targeted, but was accidentally killed with nine others in a drone strike.

3. The President has not advocated the execution of Manning or Snowden, and the crime of treason does not include killing anyone as a necessary element.

4. The United States is governed by its laws, not what Jesus allegedly said.

5. Calling for a criminal trial with a “sure conviction” is unconstitutional and un-American.

In summary, this isn’t politics, but hate, bolstered by dishonesty and ignorance.

Unethical Politician C:

Wendy Davis, Texas State Senator (D)

and Candidate for Governor

Ethics Failures:

Honesty, Candor, Integrity

Seemingly factory-made for political stardom, Wendy Davis became a media star and a feminist hero with her (wildly over-hyped by the abortion-supporting news media) 11-hour filibuster against abortion restrictions in Texas. Now Davis is attempting to parlay her big moment into bigger things, and is running against Republican Gregg Abbott to succeed Rick Perry. Davis and her campaign have relentlessly plugged her “inspiring narrative”:while still a teenager, it goes, Davis married, had a child and divorced. “I had a baby. I got divorced by the time I was 19 years old,” she testified in a recent federal lawsuit over redistricting. “After I got divorced, I lived in a mobile home park in southeast Fort Worth.” As a working mother raising a daughter, Davis enrolled in a local community college. Her website relates, “With the help of academic scholarships and student loans, Wendy not only became the first person in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree but graduated first in her class and was accepted to Harvard Law School.”  She won election to the Fort Worth City Council and then the Texas Senate.  “I’m a Texas success story,” Davis told NBC. “I am the epitome of hard work and optimism.”

Well, sort of. The Dallas Morning News decided to check the details of her story. Davis was not a divorced working mother living in a mobile home at age 19. Instead, she was 21, and lived in a trailer for just a short time, then moved in with her mother for a while until moving  into her own apartment. At 24, she married Jeff Davis, a lawyer, who helped pay the tuition for her final two years of college, and then cashed out his 401(k) and took out loans to finance her Harvard law degree before she filed for divorce. He also cared for their kids while she was in Cambridge.

The paper interviewed Jeff Davis, who said that Wendy announced  she was leaving him the day after the final installment of her tuition loan was paid. (Nice.)  She also gave Jeff legal custody of the couple’s youngest daughter while agreeing to pay monthly child support. Her campaign version of Wendy’s “narrative” conveniently leaves out the contribution of her ex-husband to her education and the fact that she gave up her daughter to allow her the freedom to pursue a political career. Nonetheless, the paper bends over backwards to rationalize the omissions with an “everybody does it” spin, noting helpfully that “All campaigns seek to cast their candidate in the most positive light and their opponent in less flattering terms…Using her story to inspire new voters, particularly women, youths and minorities, is a key part of the campaign’s strategy to overcome the state’s heavy Republican bent.”

Ah. So fudging the truth and misrepresenting key facts is acceptable, then.

Responding to the paper’s revelations,  Davis explained the chronological errors and incomplete details by saying,  “My language should be tighter. I’m learning about using broader, looser language. I need to be more focused on the detail.” Funny, I thought that precise communication was one of the primary skills taught at Harvard Law School. My own law school experience would indicate that when a well-trained advocate leaves out part of the evidence, it isn’t accidental. Later, after the Abbott campaign predictably and accurately pointed to the Dallas News story to note the Davis was not being transparent with voters about her background, Davis responded with this statement:

“We’re not surprised by Greg Abbott’s campaign attacks on the personal story of my life as a single mother who worked hard to get ahead. But they won’t work, because my story is the story of millions of Texas women who know the strength it takes when you’re young, alone and a mother. I’ve always been open about my life not because my story is unique, but because it isn’t. The truth is that at age 19, I was a teenage mother living alone with my daughter in a trailer and struggling to keep us afloat on my way to a divorce. And I knew then that I was going to have to work my way up and out of that life if I was going to give my daughter a better life and a better future and that’s what I’ve done. I am proud of where I came from and I am proud of what I’ve been able to achieve through hard work and perseverance. And I guarantee you that anyone who tries to say otherwise hasn’t walked a day in my shoes.”

Abbott is paralyzed and uses a wheelchair, so he really doesn’t walk in anyone’s shoes.

Then Davis’s campaign followed with this:

“We’re not surprised Republicans have attempted to undermine Wendy Davis’ campaign by calling her past into question – we have seen similar attacks launched against women candidates before. The recent personal attacks on Wendy Davis and her family are blatant attempts to thwart her campaign and undermine her success…Greg Abbott is running scared and for good reason. Senator Davis’ personal story is a compelling narrative of perseverance and hard work that millions of Texans have responded to. It is appalling that Republicans would attack the details of that story rather than focus on the issues affecting Texas families. Disputing the details of Wendy Davis’ life is especially offensive to the many Texas women who can relate to her story. In trying to tear down Senator Davis’ campaign and her personal story, Republicans are also tearing down all Texans who have overcome difficult circumstances. It’s clear Greg Abbott doesn’t understand Wendy Davis’ struggles and the struggles of millions of Texans, nor does he want to.”

How do you rank

politicians A, B, and C

 from most unethical to least?

My ranking? Black (B), and by a couple of laps. Then Davis (C), and deLeon (A).

Black is obviously the kind of uncivil, irresponsible and hateful bomb-thrower that we need fewer of in our political process, not more. Davis, while not being nearly as irredeemable as he, is still disappointing, especially in her responses to her own deliberate misrepresentations about who she really is. The last attack from her campaign is especially ominous, and signals that she will lie, and then respond to criticism of the lies by disingenuous rhetorical flourishes and by playing the victim:

  • “We’re not surprised Republicans have attempted to undermine Wendy Davis’ campaign…” Well, I would hope not, since you are running against them!
  • “….by calling her past into question –…”  Her past is legitimately in question, since the candidate intentionally misrepresented it.
  • “….we have seen similar attacks launched against women candidates before.” Now pointing out a female candidate’s deceit is  somehow inherently sexist, as if exactly the the same wouldn’t be done to any male candidate who similarly fudged his personal history. Dishonest and unfair….and redolent of “If you criticize a black President, you are a racist.”
  • “The recent personal attacks on Wendy Davis and her family…”  Challenging an incomplete and misleading campaign narrative about a candidate’s family is not a personal attack” on either. 
  • “…are blatant attempts to thwart her campaign and undermine her success…” Yes, it’s called a campaign, and each candidate traditionally attempts to thwart the other’s campaign and undermine their success. How dare this bad, sexist man try to win against this inspiring woman? 
  • Senator Davis’ personal story is a compelling narrative of perseverance and hard work that millions of Texans have responded to.”  Especially when the inconvenient details are left out!
  • It is appalling that Republicans would attack the details of that story rather than focus on the issues affecting Texas families.” False dichotomy.  And it’s appalling that Republicans would focus on false details when they are false, and when the actual facts were left out to make the bold feminist look more independent and virtuous than she was? Why is that appalling?
  • Disputing the details of Wendy Davis’ life is especially offensive to the many Texas women who can relate to her story. In trying to tear down Senator Davis’ campaign and her personal story, Republicans are also tearing down all Texans who have overcome difficult circumstances. It’s clear Greg Abbott doesn’t understand Wendy Davis’ struggles and the struggles of millions of Texans, nor does he want to.Translation: “We were caught red-handed fudging the aspects of our candidate’s past that show that she used a man to make her inspiring story happen, chose her career over her child at a crucial stage, and is capable of being both ruthless and deceptive. But we think we can distract everyone by crying sexism, and can avoid dealing honestly with the fact that Wendy Davis tried to intentionally misrepresent her personal history, by arguing that it is somehow wrong to point out that “an inspiring story” is not exactly true.”


Sources: Washington ExaminerInternational Business Times, The Blaze 1, 2, Dallas News, Washington Post, Neo-neocon

30 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: Rank The Unethical Politicians!

  1. I’d say Davis, with Black and de Leon tied for second. The latter two are obviously ignorant of what they’re speaking, with an aggressive tone that will play well to the base, but which are likely to ultimately hinder any further attempts at advancement.

    Davis, OTOH, is clearly no dummy. Her track record reveals her as a highly manipulative creature who isn’t afraid to completely misuse people who trust her, and who is completely willing to double down on a lie if called out by engaging in ad hominem attacks on those who do so. She also represents far more of a threat to the republic, given the fawning way in which she’s viewed by much of the media.

  2. I agree with your rankings.

    Black was completely outrageous and clearly criminal: one of the worst things any politician has said in a very long time, and there has been plenty of competition for that title.

    Davis was Clintonesque: her real life story (minus the manipulation and the narcissism) has elements that actually are inspiring, but she just couldn’t resist adding details that could readily be proven to be lies. There’s pathology there. (I’ve been meaning to write about this case since the story broke. but I’m just swamped right now.)

    de Leon could have been (not to be confused with “was”) making an honest mistake–or, rather, a series of them. A confusion of terms might be a sign of laziness (or even just misspeaking) rather than dishonesty. And to someone who doesn’t know a lot about guns, firing 30 rounds in half a second could readily be confused with firing 30 rounds, one every half second. The point is, those bullets are coming out pretty damned fast.

  3. I would rank them, from least unethical to most, as B A C.

    Black may be the sort of politician we need fewer of, so the fact that he is almost assured to not get elected drops him down a notxh (he is not only nuts, but a Republican, which means his chances in CA are loooooow).

    de Leon, however, does currently vote on and decide policy for CA, so his willful ignorance of the thing he is screeching about is all the worse.

    And then you have Davis. Her claims that her family is being attack would ring less hollow if she had not walked away from that family. Her cries of “we have seem similar attacks on other women” would carry more weight if those attacks weren’t a) from Democrats against female Republicans (has anyone moved in next door and questioned whether she actually gave birth to her daughter, or stated that she got to where she is by blowing male politicians, or that she has had a string of affairs?) and b) if pointing out factual errors and omissions were actually attacks.

    I like how the paraplegic guy doesn’t know adversity. That was maybe my favorite part.

    • Actually, AMS, Black is running in FL. That, sadly, does not change much about your comment. Windy (sp. intentional) Davis scares the hell out of me because I LIVE in Texas. I don’t think she has much of a chance, here, but it’s mostly because she has an abrasive, contentious personality. Rick Perry, our current5 governor, is an idiot but he is a nice guy and is more-or-less honest. So my ranking would be C B A.

  4. Really, it’s so hard to choose, and that makes all of them worthy victors. All of them highlight troubling aspects of national life and politics that in a wiser time would have them laughed out of the public eye. De Leon is slightly less objectionable as his nuttery has a slightly smaller scope. Black had a broader scope of error and is pushing for direct violence on issues. And Davis seems to think that you can keep secrets today and deny them like the big boys. She’s wasting any goodwill by lying. (politics is manipulative, even if in goodwill and true so that alone doesn’t make a winner here, but lying about what is easily fact checked is dumb) If I had to choose, I’d say B, C, A right now, but ***it’s so close I’d crown them all winners here.***

  5. Ha, what a fun challenge!

    I agree with your ranking – B, C, A, in descending order of despicability.

    I could see an argument for C, B, A on the grounds that a state senator and candidate for governor is in a far greater position to cause danger than is a mere candidate for state legislature.

    It’s hard to choose on the ‘merits’ alone between lying about one’s history and blowing off a spouse, on the one hand, and hysterical proto-religious homicidal ravings on the other. The latter may seem far more egregious, but it’s so blatant and obvious that it’s hard to take it as seriously.

    Thanks for the morning’s entertainment!

      • In which case I would put de Leon in first place, because he added to public stupidity, which is a critical danger.

        Black added to and encouraged blind rage, a damned serious problem but not quite as widespread or damaging as stupidity.

  6. I rank Black as the worst because of the magnitude of the ridiculousness of his rant. And because he’s a Republican and I get more angry at conservatives who give liberals grist for their mills. Of the three his will be the one most used by the media to give a black eye to their political opponents. It’s a toss up between De Leon and Davis with Davis worst by a little because of the obviousness of her sad little lies. De Leon is just (unfortunately) average for a politician there for whatever he can get but obviously not because of competence.

  7. Yeah…. See. Do ethics apply when you’re genuinely too stupid to understand the ramifications of what you’re doing? I think Black still need to be held to account for what he’s doing, but I also think he genuinely believes in the crazyness that he is spouting. Which makes him crazy and dangerous, but not necessarily unethical..

    Contrast that with De Leon, who I believe thinks guns are dangerous, and would say anthing in order to push his agenda of gun control, facts be damned, because people need to be protected and the facts must back him up because of the righteousnes of his cause. He’s similar to Black, but he should know better./

    The winner, in my opinion is Davis. She knows what she’s doing. She’s being deliberately manipulative, for no reason other than for her own success. She’s lived off the purses of others, while lieing to them, and once their utility to herhad run it’s course, she dropped them.

    For these reasons, I say C, with B and A being very close. Perhaps Black is being worse than De Leon.

    • No, you know what, I want to change my last two. I’m going to change based on the damage the situations could reasonable cause. De Leon might actually get traction, so deluded is the left when it comes to gun control. I don’t think the average Republican actually thinks killing the POTUS is a rational course. It’s so rediculous it loses credibility on its face.

  8. Actually, his legislation, requiring background checks for those who manufacture their own guns, isn’t unreasonable.

    If so, then requiring photo ID for voting is not unreasonable, either.

    That written, gangbangers making their own Sten guns in concealed workshops would be as likely to go through a background check as gangbangers making their own meth would.

    In summary, this isn’t politics, but hate, bolstered by dishonesty and ignorance.

    There is nothing I would add except that sadly, some electoral districts condone such conduct.

    (wildly over-hyped by the abortion-supporting news media

    Why would the news media support abortion?

  9. I vote C, then A, then B.

    Black’s an idiot who makes me facepalm and mutter “sit down and shut up, you idiot.” But he’s full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    De Leon, on the other hand, is similarly an idiot – but he is using lies in order to enact a course of legislation which will affect hundreds of thousands of people. After Obamacare, I’ve far less stomach for that sort of thing.

    Davis takes the cake, however, by doubling down, turning the fact of her own wrongdoing into a weapon against those who would set the record straight. B’s an idiot, spouting venom, A’s treacherous, lying openly, but C is attacking the truth after having lied.

  10. Based on the conduct ALONE, isolated from the impact of the individuals and their roles / objectives, then my ranking would be:

    B, C, A

    Black’s conduct is pure malice, whose conclusions are based on false premises and bolstered by false analogies, and a willingness to manipulate the facts against someone else.

    Davis is a close 2nd, whose extreme spinning and exaggeration, along with outright dishonesty, show her willingness to manipulate the facts to any length for her own benefit.

    De Leon, should have educated himself enough on the topic he’s chosen to champion, so that he doesn’t make the obvious tongue-tied errors that he has made. He doesn’t have an excuse (incompetence isn’t an excuse), but his conduct is much less worse than the other two, because incompetence isn’t nearly as bad as dishonesty.

    NOW, put into the perspective of how the 3 individuals’ rank in the community and their subsequent effects on the community, as well their individual aspirations and objectives, the ranking becomes this:

    C, A, B (with A & B very close to each other, but both far behind Davis).

  11. I’d definitely agree with your ranking. The first one is so common as to hardly be worth talking about. (Not that it’s not an ethics flaw, or shouldn’t be pointed out, just that it’s rare that a politician doesn’t let details get in the way of his rhetoric).
    It reminds me of the British politician who stood up in the Commons and announced that marijuana has 356 (or whatever number he pulled out of his ass) chemicals in it. Well, yeah … but guess what so does the pie and pint of beer you slugged back last night. Never let accuracy get in the way of rhetoric.

  12. This Davis story is laughable. Can you imagine the MSNBC angle on a white conservative pol who got his wife to pay for his Harvard Law tuition and then dumped her?

  13. Same ranking as yours, Jack.

    Black’s raging, self-blinded, presumptuous, run-get-your-pitchforks “dissent” is menacingly uncivil – not just unfit rhetoric, but rhetoric that exposes its user as unfit for elective office as dogcatcher (not to mention untrustworthy). The country is already way, way too far down the banana republic road of criminalizing policy and criminalizing policymakers for their policies (and, of making policy for the primary benefit of criminals). Black’s exhortations are only for more of the same, and besides, we all know he would be arrested for what he has said within an hour of speaking it, if he wasn’t black and Republican.

    Wendy’s wobbly, wishful spin machine of personal history is anachronistic, and provides more than enough confirmation to even the least informed voting moron of how she would spend other people’s money (including that moron’s): on herself. I wouldn’t mind seeing her naked, and she makes me angry enough to want to vengefully “manipulate” her, but the nakedness of her narcissism makes me feel dirty just listening to her. I don’t like feeling dirty. For her campaign theme song, Wendy should use Fleetwood Mac’s “Little Lies.”

    Kevin de León is a Renaissance Ignoramus. He isn’t harmless, because he obviously attracts votes. It is further discomforting that he has won more than one state-level election. But, with guys like him trying to make gun laws, I can almost look forward to becoming an outlaw (with a gun), because any government made up of a bunch of guys like him is going to be so inept, in desperation they’ll be hiring outlaws like me at top dollar, just to pretend to be Democrat Party members and to “enforce” whatever stupid, unenforceable, unworthy-of-enforcing laws they pass. I’ll be paid well for doing nothing – and still able to shoot back.

  14. I haven’t had a chance to read it all, I will after a while but for your consideration, my apologies if Jack included this additional nugget from Kevin de Leon already.


    A state lawmaker who has co-authored legislation to track ammunition sales believes law enforcement officials need more information to “profile” sales to anyone who isn’t a white male over the age of 50.

    During a July 2 committee hearing, state Senator Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, urged his colleagues on the Senate Public Safety Committee to support Assembly Bill 48, which would track large ammunition sales in California. The bill would require the state Department of Justice to alert local law enforcement agencies of any ammunition sales exceeding 3,000 rounds within a 5-day period.

    De Leon, a co-author of the bill, says the legislation is needed to highlight purchases by those who “don’t fit a certain profile,” a word he said they chose “carefully.” In explanation of the bill, he said:

    “What it does is in a place like Richmond, what does like in a place like Oakland or Los Angeles, if there are individuals purchasing large quantities, and perhaps, they don’t fit a certain profile. Now, I will use the word profile, cause I’m using my words very carefully.”

    De Leon goes on to describe his profile of the typical purchaser of large quantities of ammunition in Los Angeles, including a description of the buyer’s race, age and gender.

    “In Los Angeles, a profile of an individual who purchases large quantities, according to a Rand Institute study, is a white male over the age of 50. That is the profile.”

  15. C,A,B Because it spells a word, they are all awful. A,B are ignorant, with C being dishonest and manipulative. The first two as bad as they are may be driven by true beliefs, regardless of how idiotic they are. Davis is a liar and is trying to manipulate people with a false story. The first two could have drawn the wrong conclusions from information and analysis, still bad but Davis is talking about her own history and how she bases her stance on that made up history. She is the worst of the three….A and B are a toss up but based on De Leon currently being able to have an impact he gets the nod for the #2 spot.

  16. I vote for C, B, A. My impression (based solely on what I’ve read in this post) is that A is an idiot and that B is a looney. But C seems like she knows exactly what she’s doing.

  17. Ah I love it.

    Wendy Davis has backed off of her abortion rhetoric that made her a superstar.

    The Internet is abuzz with humor.

    Left devastated to learn Wendy Davis is a politician and not a true believer.

    Davis decides to terminate position on abortion, she claims it isn’t viable. Believes the choice to terminate a position rests with the woman and her pollster alone.

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